Davos: World elite go into crisis retreat
With the capitalist world suffering its worst battering since the Great Depression, the words of two leaders of former communist countries—China’s Premier Wen Jiabao and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin—are expected to dominate Wednesday’s start of the elite five-day World Economic Forum.
Putin, Wen, Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are all scheduled to lecture scores of government leaders and ministers and hundreds of corporate chiefs on how crashing economies can be saved.
The way has been left open for Russia and China to monopolize the debate as no top policymaker from the administration of US President Barack Obama has agreed to go to Davos. Neither Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner nor Obama’s economic adviser Lawrence Summers followed up on initial acceptances. In Full, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Unlike his colleagues entering the administration, Gates, who served as Pentagon chief under President George W. Bush, could not claim a lack of familiarity with the intricacies of the war. While working for Bush, Gates was frequently a voice of caution on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrasting with the often triumphalist rhetoric and expansive goals of his then-colleagues — his aides have said that he has more in common with Obama’s approach to foreign affairs than he did with Bush’s — and Gates’ measured tone in the hearing was hardly a departure from his style in the Bush administration. But Gates appeared freer to voice concern about the course of the war during Tuesday’s hearing than he was as a Bush cabinet official, befitting his new status as an architect of policy rather than an inheritor of it.
Most importantly, Gates provided a series of warnings that might help shape the ways in which the Obama administration takes charge of the Afghanistan war. The most immediate issue facing the administration on the war is whether to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan — something Obama repeatedly promised on the campaign trail and is now attracting increasing discomfort among the administration’s progressive base. In December, Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, stated that he needs an increase of nearly 30,000 troops “for the next few years” — in other words, a sustained troop increase, not a brief surge in U.S. forces as occurred in Iraq in 2007. In the last few days Obama administration officials have begun telling reporters off the record not to presume that the president has made a decision on the size or duration of any prospective troop increase.
Gates said Tuesday that he backs McKiernan’s request — but signaled that the troop spigot would not remain open. “I would be very skeptical about additional force levels beyond what Gen. McKiernan asked for,” Gates told the Senate panel. A former senior CIA official during the Russian invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Gates recalled that “the Soviets couldn't win that war with 120,000 troops and a ruthless approach” to Afghan civilians, since they adopted “the wrong strategy.” Washington Independent, with a H/t to Abu Muqawama
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